Monday, December 12, 2011

Now Yule Be Ready For Christmas

...If you came to SAW last Saturday!

We did some practical cultural and historical background research - in other words we did lots of Christmassy things!
Wiebke explained what Advent really means and how it's celebrated in some European countries. We made and decorated stockings, pomanders, straw stars and woven paper sweetie bags and then eveyone had a hot Chrismas drink and celebratory food.

Thanks to all Santa's little helpers and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

See you in 2012 - new season dates to follow soon. In the meantime, you might like to look at a few pictures from 2011.


All best wishes,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Knots and Pongs!

Dyeing and Weaving session at Priory Coutry Park Visitor Centre, led by Chris Dobson.

It's no wonder dyers and tanners used to live on the outskirts of the town! At SAW in November we took a whiff of some of the pongs created by natural dyestuffs and the 'mordants' - natural salts, such as alum, that were used to make the colour permanent - to me, wool soaking in a weld solution smelt a bit like drains and old socks combined!

Chris showed us all the colours you can make from a small number of plants: Weld, a plant with little yellow flowers produces striking yellows through to mild greens; the root of the Madder plant makes deep reds to red-browns; onion skins create a range of warm browns and tans; but what is most magical, is watching as wool which has been soaking in woad solution, is lifted out of the water and turns from a murky green into strong blue.

We all helped Chris to prepare the woad plants by ripping up the leaves by hand
 which left us all 'green-fingered'!

Everyone got the chance to create their own dye pot to take home - the longer it's left the stronger the colour - we wait to see who leaves their pot the longest!

Then we got weaving!

Chris showed us examples of different hand looms and 'heads' which twist the threads to make more complicated patterns - some heads are made of wood and some of leather and they come in different shapes with varying numbers of holes.

Most people got themselves in a bit of a tangle trying to understand the deceptively simple craft of 'stick-weaving' - that is using a stick to hold the ends of two colours of wool, in order to hand-weave a braid. It's not as easy as Chris made it look!

On top of all this activity Aidan was filming the session , finding out how everyone was getting on - so we can't wait to see his results.

Despite the knots and pongs, everyone seemed to have a good time, so we say a big 'Thank You' to Chris for all her superb information and for passing on her skills and 'thank you' to Jane and everyone at Priory Country Park for letting us use your facilities and to all the helpers, including 'Jim-the-Camera'.

Next session Saturday, see you there!

Wrapped-up in Paper

Charlie's Frogmore Paper Mill visit Review.

My visit to Frogmore Paper Mill was a very enjoyable and interesting one. I found out lots of information including how they make handmade paper, how old the mill is and what they put in the paper.

In the 1200's the mill was a corn mill called Covent Mill and they only know this from written records. In the 1700's the mill started making paper by hand and then by machine in 1803. They still make handmade paper and this weighs up to 600grams. Paper made by machine weighs 110 - 350 gsm. An approximate calculation shows that they make about 250,000,000 sheets of A4 paper a year.

On our tour we got to see and make handmade paper. First of all they mix minced paper with water and then drain the water away. This mixture is known as 'crumble'. They then get a big tub and add the crumble into it the mixture is then made complete by adding  90% of water. They then get frames that are made out of wire and wood and sift the solution onto them till the whole of the frame is covered. They then sponge the water out and tip the paper mixture onto the mat which is made out of felt. The mat then gets put onto a heater and turns white paper into even whiter paper. You then have to get another mat and leave it there to dry. Your paper is now finished.

Sometimes the mill adds Banana skins, wild flower seeds, denim jeans, petals, Elephant dung and sometimes bank notes that are shredded up into the paper mixture.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Aidan's Review

We recently visited the LAARC in London. I found this trip very good and informative as I had never looked in the stores of a museum before. We saw lots of things such as where they store all their finds and the glass and pottery store. Edward and Sian took us round and explained how they deal with the finds and what records they keep. I was amazed to see a bottle of castor oil from the early 1900s still full of cstor oil! Later in the day we went to the London Museum where we saw many awesome things such as the Savoy elevator from the 1950s and the first Apple computer which was massive compared to their ipad! I really enjoyed the day and hope we can do more visits like this.

Monday, October 24, 2011

LAARC-ing Around - Our visit to the London Archaeological Archives and Research Centre

Jack's Review

Saturday was an amazing day. We visited LAARC (London Archaeological Archives and Research Centre) as well as going to the Museum of London.
First we had a tour of LAARC by two very enthusiastic guides. This consisted of visit to the artefact stores where in ‘filing cabinets’ thousands (if not millions!) of artefacts from 1972 to the present day. We could not go round all of the archive though as it is the largest archives in Europe!
After this visit we went to the Museum of London. In there we looked around the most of the main museum (not forgetting the shop!). my favourite part was definitely the Roman section  - sadly this is being taken away soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Digging, Graves and Dyeing!

The new season of Saturday Archaeology Workshops is published here.

If you are interested in graves and dyeing this season should hold some interest for you. We are going to be reviewing our excavation from the summer, learning how to survey and record a site, which happens to be a graveyard and discovering through practical activities about how different people have created and coloured the textiles for their clothes in the past, (very smelly)!

In the meantime, take a look at our Gallery and see just a few of the things we've been up to in the last few years...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mud pies and boar sausages!

What a glorious weekend!
On Saturday eight SAW children undertook the challenge of excavating a test area adjacent to a very old boundary ditch in the middle of Priory Country Park in Bedford. Research undertaken previously in Bedford Borough Council's Hiatoric Environment Record, had shown the children that there was evidence, in the form of photogrphs, maps and records of earlier excavations, to indicate that there had been a Roman villa or farmstead nearby under what is now the lake!

Priory Country Park lake, looking south.

 The children were very excited at the prospect of conducting their own dig to see if this area remained undisturbed and perhaps held further Roman remains...

The ground was broken early on Saturday morning amid light showers and intermittent sun, but by 9.30 the rain, which varied from downpour to torrent, had set in for the day! Archaeologists, Rangers, SAW staff and mud-plastered children battled-on valiantly, but by 12.30 we beat a retreat to safety, though having discovered some Roman roof tile fragments and some intriguing variations in the ground.

Sunday and 'The Making of Bedford' event.
The weather looked as unpromising as that of the previous day, but with good heart and tremendous help from SAW parents, Albion Archaeologists, Rangers and Education volunteers, we set up three event stalls, a viewing position for the excavation and an Iron Age living history display with cooking food (including boar sausages!), spinning and weaving and a display to mark the roundhouse project. The children looked splendid in the costumes they had made and 'had had made'!


When they were not being Iron Ages dwellers the children resumed the excavation of the boundary ditch site and were rewarded by finding more roof tile, 'St Neot's ware' potsherds, a fragment of a mortarium and what was identified as a flint core.

Everything was recorded on site and the archaeologists are now trying to piece together all the evidence and later the shildren will have to help compile a report of the excavation.
Many thanks to all for a very special weekend.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Show Will Go On!

"The completed roundhouse was due to form the centrepiece of the living history contribution to ‘The Making of Bedford’ event, to be held on Sunday 17th July, involving cooking, spinning & weaving and a range of other crafts.  This event will still run, despite recent circumstances.

Cllr Doug McMurdo, portfolio holder for Leisure and Culture, at Bedford Borough Council, said: “Everyone’s passion and enthusiasm for this project is evident as the participants are keen to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and carry on with their planned iron age living history display. I am sure the occasion will continue to be a popular one that generates just as much interest, thanks to the spirit of all those involved.”

The project is part of the national ‘Festival of British Archaeology’ and will host results of an excavation of the burn site and provide a display of the roundhouse construction process - visitors will even get the opportunity to have a go at wattle and daub construction!"
Bedford Borough Council Communications Team -  Press Release. 4/7/11

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sad News

In contrast to the happy faces in the last post, everyone will be less pleased to see that due to the unwelcome attentions of 'persons unknown', our nearly completed 'iron age' roundhouse, has been destroyed by fire today. Somebody lit a fire at the back of the building causing the thatch to catch light, after which the roof and some of the wattle walls had no chance.

We will be consulting as to the best course of action as to whether to rebuild and if so where this can be.

I'm sorry to have to post this news but I hope the people concerned will realise something of the distress they have caused.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hot Daub Day

Welcome to Saturday Archaeology Workshops' blog!

A big thanks to everyone who was able to come and help with the roundhouse contruction yesterday - I hope no one got too much sun on the hottest day of the year so far!